Nurse Turnover Rates: How to Reduce Healthcare Turnover

Understanding Nurse Turnover

Among the many challenges healthcare leaders face is understanding what is nurse turnover and what can be done about it. Nurse turnover occurs any time a nurse chooses to leave an organization, for any given reason — often retirement, changing professions, or choosing to work at a different organization. Among the most common reasons for nurse turnover include nurses feeling underappreciated, dealing with short staffing, and the strains of hard mental/physical labor.

Whatever the reason(s) may be, the increase in nurse turnover has been shown to negatively impact an organization both from a quality and financial perspective. In addition to the direct costs associated with replacing a nurse, additional costs must be considered from a quality standpoint as studies show a direct link between managing nursing turnover and high-quality patient care. With continuous nurse turnover, healthcare workers and patients alike suffer from the loss of teamwork, trust, and effective communication.

What is the Current Nurse Turnover Rate?

The current nurse turnover rate is 8.8% to 37%, depending on region and nursing specialty. With a national average of 17.1% for registered nurse (RN) turnover year over year, healthcare leaders often struggle to keep up with staffing ratios. Solving for high nurse turnover can’t come quickly enough, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employment Projections 2016-2026 lists RNs among the top occupations in terms of job growth, expected to reach 3.4 million by 2026 — equaling 438,100 new registered nurses, roughly a 15% increase.

This estimate however, does not include The Bureau’s projected need for an additional 203,700 new RNs each year (through 2026) to account for the Baby Boomer’s retirement rate and standard demand for newly created positions.

While nurse turnover rates are certainly concerning, another turnover rate in healthcare tells a bigger part of the story. A study in the 2020 National Healthcare Retention & RN Staffing Report indicated that the national hospital turnover rate was 17.8%. Alarmingly, the average hospital turned over 89% of its workforce since 2015.

What is the Financial Impact of Nurse Turnover?

The average cost of nurse turnover to an organization is between $37,700-$58,400 per nurse, with additional challenges on the horizon. Turnover for bedside RNs costs the average hospital between $4.9M-$7.6M and additional data suggests that hospitals can lose up to $5.2M-$8.1M annually.

Reducing nurse turnover costs is no small feat and the problem is only expected to grow throughout the next decade. Based on a survey by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing and The Forum of State Nursing Workforce Centers, 50.0% of the RN workforce is at least 50 years of age. As such, The Health and Resources and Services Administration projects that more than 1 million RNs will hit their retirement age within the next 10 to 15 years.

On top of that, new graduate nurse retention statistics suggest that as many as 30% of new graduate nurses will leave during their first year of practice, increasing to as many as 57% within the second year.

Healthcare leaders wondering how much does it cost to hire a nurse will need to budget for recruiting in addition to training and onboarding. While the cost to train a nurse varies amongst organizations, the Journal of Nursing Administration estimates the cost to replace a nurse is $82,000 before onboarding and training even begin.

How to Reduce Nurse Turnover

There are many issues that account for staff burnout and lack of engagement leading to turnover, such as insufficient staffing, lack of experience, patient demographics, and inconsistencies in salaries. While nurses might leave their role to pursue a different industry or due to major life events, organizations can influence most factors contributing to high nurse turnover rates. Healthcare leaders challenged with how to reduce nurse turnover might consider these strategies:

  • Be intentional when hiring
  • Offer a flexible work schedule
  • Prioritize onboarding and training
  • Promote meaningful recognition
  • Provide career development and continuing education

Interested in Learning More About Nurse Turnover?

With national nurse turnover at 17% and the cost of replacing a single nurse estimated to be $37K–$58K, hospitals need innovative ways to build and retain a stronger nurse workforce. Relias offers assessment and learning solutions to reduce nurse turnover, improve onboarding programs, evaluate competency, and develop the next generation of nurse leaders.

As the national leader in holistic healthcare assessments, Relias Assessments (formerly Prophecy) empowers healthcare leaders to leverage assessments to make informed hiring and placement decisions thereby helping them achieve better long-term nurse success, satisfaction, and retention. Assessment data helps identify developmental areas, continuously measure competencies, and cultivate future leaders.

Additionally, Relias CE Direct (known for its reputation as the leading provider in continuing education) offers a wealth of knowledge to healthcare workers on management and leadership education, including:

  • 100+ courses specific to management and leadership training for nurses, such as Developing Your Leadership Potential and Coaching: An Essential Skill for Nurses.
  • Certification Review courses on nursing’s most popular topics to help nurse managers self-prepare for certification exams, prepare for recertification, and earn CE hours while improving knowledge.
  • Focused CE Series on Nursing Preceptor Specialty Practice to maximize nurses’ knowledge in preceptoring. Topics include boundaries between preceptor and preceptee, critical thinking, time management, evaluation of competency, goal-writing, constructive feedback, patient/family engagement, HCAHPS, NDNQI, and more.
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Natalie Vaughn

Content Marketing Manager, Relias

Natalie Vaughn has worked in marketing and communications for more than 15 years, with more than half of her experience dedicated to healthcare quality improvement. At Relias, she partners with physicians, nurses, curriculum designers, writers, and other staff members to shape healthcare content designed to improve clinical practice, staff expertise, and patient outcomes. Natalie obtained a Master of Business Administration degree with a focus in marketing, driven by a passion for understanding consumer behavior, branding strategies, and leveraging thought leaders as innovators within a given industry.

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